Sep 3, 2018
Prisoners in at least 17 states are on strike, protesting the severely inhumane conditions in prisons. Three hundred inmates in Nova Scotia, Canada have also joined the strike. The strike began on August 21, the anniversary of the killing of George Jackson by prison guards in Soledad, California, in 1971, and is scheduled to run until September 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion in New York that same year.
The strike is taking place in kitchens, laundries, prison grounds – anywhere prisoners do work. By refusing to work, the strikers are trying to draw attention to the dire problems they face every day: the extremely low pay they get, the overcrowding, the treatment of inmates by guards and prison officials. But strikers’ demands also include greater access to rehabilitation and education, and changes in sentencing laws.
Prisoners are demanding that they be paid regular wages for the work they do. On wages as low as a dollar an hour, prisoners can’t even buy the most basic necessities. And when they are released, they have no money for their living expenses. Texas and South Carolina even allow companies to pay prisoners nothing for the work they do! No wonder prisoners call this slave labor – and they say they accept it only because sitting in prison doing nothing is worse.
In a great irony for those who like to claim they defend the U.S. Constitution, the 13th Amendment actually states that slavery is legal, when a person has been convicted of a crime.
Along with the strike, reports indicate that prisoners are organizing other actions, ranging from boycotting prison stores to sit-ins and hunger strikes. But it is difficult to get accurate information about specific actions and how widespread the prisoners’ movement really is, because prison authorities not only try to put a lid on news coming out of prisons; in some states authorities even deny strikes and other actions are taking place.